We sat at a small table clustered with other empty tables under the white fabric awning in front of Rebooked. It was shaded and quiet and reasonably private, but public enough I didn’t feel awkward being alone with Rico. He placed his bag on the table between us and smiled at me, suddenly shy now that he had my attention.
“Clock’s ticking,” I said.
“Yeah, um…” he started. He pushed his sunglasses up onto his head and studied my face for a moment. When he finally settled on my eyes, he gazed intently.
“Okay, you’re freaking me out now,” I told him. I reached for my bag of market goodies, ready to let Rico find someone else to stare at.
“Sorry, it’s part of my process. I’m a film maker, documentaries mostly, and I’m always looking for the best angles, lighting, backgrounds…” he explained.
“I’m not interested in having another documentary done about me,” I said flatly.
When I was four, a film company for a major network had approached my mother and convinced her that the public needed to know about me, my disability and how she coped with it. They filmed us for three weeks, talked to neighbors, doctors, relatives and psychologists and put together a 90 minute tribute to my mother about how brave and selfless she was to not only keep me once I was diagnosed, but to work so hard to make my life tolerable. Mother still played the DVD sometimes for new patients to encourage them. I think she wants them to know what a saint she is, so they will pay her exorbitant fees without complaint. But I could be wrong.
“No, no, I don’t want to do that. I have an idea for a television show, starring you.”
“Not interested,” I said again and, again, reached for my bag.
“You have something no one else has, Claire. You are unique. Do you have any idea how valuable your ability is?”
“I think you have me confused with someone else,” I said with a laugh.
“I’m right about this. I have done the research, taken polls, I even have the funding lined up.” Rico ticked off his points on one hand.
“What ability do you think I have?” I asked, curious. He was obviously way off about me, but I had said I would give him five minutes.
“Your ability is your non-ability,” Rico said. He held both hands palms up in front of me. “Have you ever considered how difficult it is for many people to live satisfying lives? I asked over 500 people what is the one thing their lives lacked and do you know what they answered, by an overwhelming majority?”
I shook my head, fascinated now by his intensity.
“Purpose. A purpose bigger than themselves.”
“And how does that have anything to do with me?”
“You can give them that, at least for a few minutes,” Rico said.
“Watching me on television will bring purpose to people’s lives?” Now, I’m skeptical. I’ve seen plenty of good shows, but none that good.
“I’m not talking about the viewers. It’s not the audience who you’ll be helping, at least not primarily, it’s the people who will be on the program with you,” Rico said.
“And these people are…” I prompted.
“Willing to pay to spend time with you and let me film it,” he smiled at me. I wanted to slug him.
“Rico, either you aren’t explaining yourself very well, or I am about to kick you in an extremely sensitive area,” I warned. What kind of girl did he think I was?
“I have found, and already received agreements from, thirty-six people. Some want to rescue you, some just want to talk to you, but they’re all convinced you can help them feel…fulfilled.”
“Rescue?” I asked.
“Yes, or just talk. People need to feel needed, valuable. Though all of us can do these wonderful things, talents and abilities we are born with, many of us don’t really feel…special. You can fly? Big deal, so can most of your relatives and half the people you know. You hear another person’s thoughts? Well, odds are, they can hear yours, too.
“This is why I believe you can make a difference, and together, we can help people and make money while we do it,” Rico paused. He reached across the table and took both my hands in his. The gentle breeze ruffled his turquoise hair and he leaned closer, his expression determined.
“Claire, I spoke with a gentleman who can lift a bus with one hand, toss it three blocks away and then leap beside it, and do you know what he does every day? He sells insurance over the phone. There are so many people in his neighborhood with super-strength they call it Power Ville now. He has this part of himself, this large part of who he is, that he never gets to use for anything more significant than opening pickle jars for his wife. I know another guy, super funny, but his wife, children, over half his relatives and most of the people he knows are either precogs or mind readers. He starts to tell a joke and everyone around him laughs before he gets the first word out. It’s frustrating for him.
“These are some of the people you will be helping, just by being you. Just by allowing them to actually tell the joke before you laugh. You can interview some of them, asking questions about them and since you cannot read their minds they can answer…out loud. Think about it, Claire. Picture yourself interacting with all these people who want to be around you, who need what only you have to give.”
I have to admit, I was shaking my head through most of his speech. This was the most ridiculous idea I had ever heard. Right up to the part where he said these people want to be around me. Very few people have ever wanted to spend time with me, talk to me, or rescue me (whatever that meant).
And I found myself thinking, for the first time in my life, that maybe I am not so different from everyone else after all. The people Rico talked about, I realized I understood exactly how they felt. I feel the same way most of the time. Un-needed and under-appreciated, useless.
“I’ll do it,” I said, then added, “But if this isn’t legit, or if I feel something’s hinky I will not only quit, I will also kick that sensitive area I spoke about earlier.”
“Oh, it’s legit, I’m legit, no kicking necessary,” Rico assured me with a relieved sigh. “We can start tomorrow.”
“Tomorrow?” I asked, startled, “Don’t we have to, I don’t know, sign something?”
“I have all the paperwork ready, contracts and such. I can get them to you today. I just want to get started as soon as possible.”
“Okay. I’m on board.”
I wasn’t too concerned about the contracts, money or any other paperwork. Actually, now that I had agreed to do this, I was eager to get started myself. I suddenly had a…purpose, something that might turn out to be important and make a difference in this world I had always felt I had been mistakenly born into.
So, now, here I am. Standing on a ledge on top of a twenty story building about to be scooped up and flown to safety by a very nice middle-aged man with glasses and a slight paunch. I know now what Rico meant by ‘rescue’.
I take a deep breath to steady myself and try not to look down. I had agreed to this. I wanted to help people, maybe even as much as I wanted to help myself and this was how I was going to do that. Tomorrow, I would be listening to a standup routine by who is reportedly a really funny guy.
Today I have to jump off this building.